Member-owned La Plata Electric Association looks to be on the cusp of being able to negotiate a possible exit from its power provider, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. A similar if smaller cooperative, Delta-Montrose, learned in recent weeks the cost to make its departure. Tri-State itself is claiming, as never before, that the future is in solar and wind.
From appearances, the LPEA board has largely moved in unison toward replacing Tri-State’s mostly coal-fired generation with renewables that will allow it to exceed the current 5% cap.
While LPEA has board members who are moving at differing speeds, some more cautious about the change than others, the direction is clear.
That’s is why the Herald’s editorial board favors the two incumbents in this year’s board election, Guinn Unger and Rachel Landis.
Unger is well schooled in technology, with a degree in electrical engineering and formerly employed in the NASA organization. He was a longtime officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. Unger is particularly articulate in his advocacy for renewable energy, and eager to see LPEA make the switch.
Sue McWilliams is Unger’s contender for the seat. McWilliams spent 14 years on the Empire Electric board, which serves Montezuma County, and was with the USDA Rural Utility and Rural Development Services for many years.
We urge staying with Unger, who has been a leading part of moving LPEA forward in considering an alternate energy source.
For the district that is largely Durango, we favor Rachel Landis, the former director of Fort Lewis College’s environmental center and now the co-founder of an outdoor confidence-building program for girls. She is completing her first term on a board that is heavy with learning requirements.
Landis’ challenger, Dave Nulton, has a much stronger background in engineering, however. He has degrees in mechanical and nuclear engineering and has had numerous leadership positions in project management and has prepared environmental studies. He has a knack for educating youths, coaching high school students in engineering as they won national awards in competitive space camps.
We like Landis for being a part of the board that has moved LPEA forward. But we admit that Nulton would bring exceptional experience.
The third seat is an open one, as Davin Montoya, who has held it for 30 years, is not standing for re-election. Montoya has always been an advocate for fiscal discipline; show me the numbers, he would demand, when he felt the board was considering a too-expensive new initiative. That consistent financial caution will be missed.
Doug Fults, who has been a chief technology officer and software engineer and has degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, wants to succeed Montoya. He is a third-generation Coloradan. Fults says he is eager to support the board’s efforts to investigate its energy supply options.
John Lee Jr., the Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Chief, also wants to succeed Montoya. Lee had a career in the U.S. Army, and 10 years ago returned to La Plata County where his great-grandparents had homesteaded.
Lee deserves credit for his first responder leadership, but we like Fults for his background in engineering.
(The fourth seat in the election, one that covers Archuleta County, is held by the board president, Bob Lynch. Lynch is unchallenged, and thus this seat election is canceled.)
LPEA has been moving in the right direction. We suggest retaining Unger and Landis and adding Doug Fults.
Note that the annual meeting on Sat., May 16 will be virtual, with only the election on the agenda. Ballots must be received by the cooperative by 4 p.m. the previous day.